The Idiot Test – How The Internet Treats You Like A Moron And Why It Is Often Bang On The Money
Comic book annuals back in the 1970s had a lot of what you might call “filler” in them. Cartoon strips are expensive to produce and so the annuals were padded out with facts and quizzes and stock photograph articles about Harrier Jump Jets and that sort of thing.
The quizzes would always have at least one “idiot test” question in them. One of the most common of these questions went something like this:
“An aeroplane is flying from France to Spain. It crashes exactly on the border between the two countries. Where do they bury the survivors?”
Many a young child wrestled with this conundrum for a few minutes before realizing that it was a trick question. They don’t bury the survivors, dum dum. They survived, didn’t they?
Of course, that was then and this is now. That kind of thing might have fooled young kids back in the unsophisticated 1970s. You couldn’t fool kids with something like that now though. And you certainly couldn’t pull the wool over an adult’s eyes with something that cack-handed. Could you?
Well yes, you could as a matter of fact. Could and can and do.
Social media is full idiot tests. Facebook is bristling with them.
These tests don’t ask you where survivors get buried, but they do pry into people’s level of gullibility.
The most common test is the “What is your Pornstar Name” test. This involves you constructing said Pornstar Name based on things like the street you grew up in, your first pet’s name, your mother’s maiden name and that sort of thing. You then post the hilarious result on your status or in the comments box. Then probably share it with your friends so they can work out their hilarious Pornstar Name too.
All very amusing, but the point is that this idiot test is also a scam. Do the questions “What is your mother’s maiden name? and “What was the name of your first pet?” sound familiar at all? They should do. They’re commonly asked security questions. So when you post and share your hilarious Pornstar Name, you are in fact sharing your security information with the world in general. And the originators of the quiz in particular, who are sitting with smiles on their faces merrily reaping what should be your private data.
There is another type of test that doesn’t actually reap any information. It just sees how suggestible you are or how little you think or pay attention when you are online. I saw a prime example on Facebook the other day.
It was a post with a spooky Halloween cartoon as it background. Printed over this background was the statement “2015 is the first time in 666 years that Halloween falls on Friday the 13th!”
Here’s a screenshot of it in fact:
There were hundreds of comments on this post, most of them stating what an amazing fact this was in various ways. It is amazing of course. Amazing that so many people found it amazing. But it definitely isn’t a fact. I’m not an expert on folklore and feast days, but I’m pretty sure that Halloween always falls on October 31st. So you can wait as many years as you like, it’s never going to happen on Friday the 13th.
However, like I said, there were literally hundreds of people who were willing to accept that it could. Wonder how many of them will find the “What is your pornstar name” test turning up on their Facebook sometime in the near future?
The internet is a wonderful playground. Even a middle aged man like me finds it difficult to imagine a world without it. You’ve got to be careful where you play and who you play with though. If you can’t spot idiot tests, maybe you’d be better off staying offline and reading a few old comic book annuals instead.
I’ve got loads of them.
© Copyright Michael Grimes 2015